Self-Propelled vs Push Mower – Differences + Choice Guide

Lawnmowers are essential equipment for maintaining a neat thick lawn. You might have seen various lawnmowers, including the self-propelled and push types. So, what’s the difference between a self-propelled and a push mower?

Self-propelled mowers are equipped with a gear transmission system that works with the engine or motor to help drive the mower forward. On the other hand, a push lawn mower has a motor or small engine that only spins the cutting blade.

Typically, Self-propelled mowers differ from push mowers in terms of mechanical design, ease of use, cost, speed, engine power, weight, and maintenance cost.

Self-propelled vs Push Mower – Differences

Here is a summary of the main differences between a push and a self-propelled lawn mower:

Self-Propelled Lawn MowerPush Lawn Mower           
Equipped with a transmission system that works with the engine or motor to propel the mower without the need to pushEquipped with a motor or small engine that only propels the cutting blade, thus requires to be pushed manually.
It has a large engine that produces massive power, making moving and cutting off the grass easy.The small motor or engine produces little power, mainly for cutting grass.
Moves faster, thus able to cut grass on large areas within a short period of time.Since it has to be pushed, the moving speed is low and only suitable for mowing grass in small lawns.
Usually, a piece of heavy equipment due to its large engine.Usually lighter to make it easy to push.
Expensive to acquire and maintainUsually less expensive to acquire and maintain

Based on observation and use, here is a detailed comparison between self-propelled and push lawnmowers.

Mechanical Design

Mechanical design is the main difference between self-propelled and push mowers. Self-propelled mowers are fitted with a transmission system on either rear or front wheels. When engaged, it propels itself forward. The operator only uses little energy to guide it.

On the other hand, a push mower is fitted with a motor to propel the blade alone. It doesn’t have a transmission system. Therefore, all moving forward and backward requires pushing and pulling by the operator. It’s more labour-intensive.

Cost of the Mower

Self-propelled mowers are more expensive compared to push mowers. They are expensive due to their massive amount of power. For instance, a self-propelled mower can cost up to $859 on amazon in 2022. The price varies depending on the brand.

With push mowers, the price is quite pocket friendly. The reel mowers are the most inexpensive; they cost $96 or less. A motorized push mower can cost up $256.

Speed of the Mower

Self-propelled mowers have a higher speed as compared to push mowers. They can move at a speed of 3 to 3½ miles per hour. Some models are fitted with a throttle on the handle that is used to regulate the speed. With Push mowers, speed depends on how fast the operator will push.

Engine Power

Self-propelled mowers have a large engine with more power and versatility. It propels the cutting blade as well as the wheels. While a push mower is designed with a simple motor that propels the cutting blade alone. The engine is not connected to the wheels; it depends on the operator’s muscles to move.


Self-propelled mowers weigh more due to the relatively large engine and the propulsion gearbox. Push mowers are lighter in comparison to self-propelled mowers. They can weigh 20 pounds or less, depending on the brand. The light weight is very important since you must push it along the lawn when mowing.

Maintenance cost

Self-propelled mowers will require higher maintenance costs. You will incur the extra cost of maintaining the gearbox and belts. However, if you service it properly and store it in a dry, clean and safe place, it should be able to last long.

Also, check: Can a lawnmower get wet?

Can a Self-propelled Mower be used as a Push Mower?

You can use a self-propelled mower as a push mower by simply disengaging the drive throttle. You can push it forward, backward, sideways, or in any direction you wish to move. However, it will be considerably harder to push it due to its heavy weight.

Self-propelled mowers have either back or front-wheel drive. In some cases, you may find a four-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive has the tremendous advantage of manoeuvring easily. You simply tip the front wheels off the ground and move the mower in any direction.

Push Lawn Mower or Self-Propelled – Which is Better?

When choosing between push lawnmowers and self-propelled ones, consider the following factors:

1. Lawn Size

The size of your lawn will determine the type of lawn mower to use. A push lawn mower is ideal for small yards measuring less than ¼ acre. Using a large engine mower on small lawn yards will be a waste of resources. A reel lawn mower is ideal for areas that are less than 1/4 an acre.

If your lawn size is ½ to 1 acre, it will be wise to invest in a self-propelled mower. Manoeuvring a push mower in large lawn yards requires a lot of energy. However, if you like to have a good workout and a bit of sweating, you can use a push mower.

2. Performance

Choose a self-propelled over-push mower due to its high performance. Small engine push mowers will not handle complicated tasks such as mowing tough grass like Bermuda, cutting wet grass or mulching your lawn.

You need to check the engine capacity to determine its performance. Powerful lawn mower engines have a capacity range of 140cc to 190cc. Higher cc denotes a greater engine capacity.

3. Your Budget

Push mowers are cheaper than self-propelled mowers. If you are on a budget, choosing a push mower is better. However, if you’re not restricted to a certain budget, you can opt for a self-propelled mower. They are expensive due to the additional features added.

4. The Type of Terrain

Hilly and uneven lawn terrain requires more energy to mow than a level terrain. If you have such terrain, it is ideal to choose a self-propelled mower over a push mower. Using a push mower on hilly and uneven terrain will require a lot of energy.

5. Availability

Due to technological evolution, self-propelled mowers are more readily available in the selling store than push mowers. Many gardeners prefer to use less energy when mowing their lawns rather than struggling and using a lot of energy to push the mower.

6. Cutting Options

Most push mowers have a 2-in-1 functionality. Meaning that they can bag or discharge the grass clippings. On the other hand, most self-propelled mowers have a 3-in-1 functionality. They are capable of mulching, bagging or discharging the grass clippings.

If you intend to mulch your lawn, it’s better to choose a 3-in-1 functionality mower over a 2-in-1 that lacks the versatility to perform various lawn care maintenance.

See the difference between mulching blades and regular blades.

Final Thoughts

Both self-propelled and push mowers are ideal for keeping your lawn grass short. However, you will require less energy to control a self-propelled mower than a push mower, which requires more energy to move forward and backwards when cutting the grass.

A better choice between a self-propelled and a push mower depends on various factors such as lawn size, engine performance, cost, terrain, availability, comfort and cutting options.

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